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Jemelene Wilson

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March 12, 2013
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Jemelene Wilson: Saving lives, nourishing souls

Although I was only in my 20s when the show “thirtysomething”debuted, it resonated with me.

Most of what I watched was in syndication so I could take in back-to-back episodes portraying yuppie life. One storyline in particular struck a chord with me. One of the main characters, a woman who had given up her career to stay home with her children, found her self searching for something meaningful to do. She volunteered at a homeless shelter and met a woman the same age with children whose life took a different turn than hers. She not only saw the differences, she could see herself in this woman.

While working in the emergency department a few years back, I had a similar epiphany.

It's no secret that the ER is used regularly by those with little to no means to afford healthcare. Everything from minor injuries to mental health issues brought certain patients in for multiple visits. Many became familiar enough that it didn't take much time to hear their stories. Whether it was a string of bad luck or list of poor choices, the hurts were real. My heart became heavy with the burdens of those in our community whose poverty had begun to define them. It wasn't that they didn't want out, many just couldn't find the light to see a few steps in front of them.

We have several resources in our area to meet physical needs of those in poverty. Our government has a variety of programs as well. These things are helpful, but what I learned was that people don't just need programs, they need people. Caring individuals with a heart to help change lives is the vital piece to finding the hope we all need to carry on.

Last week, I wrote about trying to save a school. We all need to care even when we don't think it affects us.

It was only a couple of weeks after leaving my job at the hospital that I discovered the Roseburg Dream Center. It's a place where the entire individual is ministered to by volunteers who care enough to lend a hand without receiving anything in return.

It all began when one woman had an encounter with a man who needed shoes. It has grown into a vital resource in this community, filling in the places other organizations didn't cover. Although they provide assistance for daily living, what they serve most is encouragement for the soul.

One of my favorite programs at the Dream Center provides hot soup and sandwiches to those who have no means to come to the building. Every Saturday, groups gather together and drive around to various areas to find those in need. Some volunteers take their children along. Their eyes sparkle as they tell the stories of making someone's day a little brighter. Not only do they give them food for their bellies, they instill warmth in their souls.

Even after hoping for this resource in our community, I found myself taking it for granted until last year when it became someone I knew.

While catching up with friends in my hometown, they told the story of a man I knew well at one time. Stuart, a veteran who had served shortly after the Vietnam War, hadn't been able to get a grip on the recurring issues of his life. For the past several years, he found himself homeless, staying under the stairwell of his boyhood church. Although he kept his area clean, scared off vandals more than once and helped around the building often, there were a few who didn't like the way it looked. He was asked to leave and by all accounts politely complied. Not long after, his body was found in a park. He was the victim of a suspected homicide, but authorities chose not to follow up. After all, he was just another homeless man.

For years, our society has placed various labels on people like Stuart. Hobo, bum, street person, riffraff or the politically correct sanitized version, “transient” have dehumanized an entire segment of our community. We want to ignore the fact that he was a son, father, brother and friend. We make it about our own ability to cope. We elevate ourselves over those we deem less worthy.

I am thankful to the Dream Center for saving lives, nourishing souls and seeing the value in every human they serve. For the parents, children and siblings whose story could have been tragic without the help of others, we must never take for granted the resources in our community. When we see the value of another soul, we find the ability to spread hope. To pour courage into the life of another human being gives us the opportunity to not only make their life better, it fills our community with hope.

We have several resources in Douglas County that do more than just sweep the streets of the “undesirables.” Can I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day to support a local shelter or resource center? With a small amount of research, you can find one you're comfortable getting behind. Whether you donate time, needed items, support or finances, you are helping mend broken people instead of just throwing them away.

Jemelene Wilson is married with two daughters and a son-in-law. Read her Tuesdays on Douglas County Moms. Also check out her personal blog here.

Even after hoping for this resource in our community, I found myself taking it for granted until last year when it became someone I knew.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:30PM Published Mar 20, 2013 09:13AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.